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  • EFFECTIVE REFLECTIVE PRACTICE IN SEARCH OF MEANING IN LEARNING ABOUT TEACHING

    J . John Loughran Monash University

    Reflective pmct ice has all allure that is scti llctive jll nntllre because it rings trill' for most people as sumdhillg useful tllld illformillg. However. for reflection to gellllillely be a lens into till' world of practice, it is importallt thai the nature of reflectiDlI be identified ill sitch (j way as to offer ways of qllestiulling /Ilkt!njnr-g rallIed assllmptions alld cncol/raging aile to see his or her practice through others' eyes. TIlt:' rdal iOl/ship between time, experience, alld expectations of It'llmillg IImJIIgl1 reflec-tioll is atl imporlall/ eil'IIlCIII of reflect iOll, alld to teacll about reflectitm rf.'l{lIirt'S cOIr tcxl llfllllncitors to make leortlillg I'l'isool:s meallillrifll i. Tllis article examillcs the naflln' of reflectiull a/ld suggests Jww it might l'fCOIt/I' effect iw rt:flcctive practice tlmt call be developed alld f'lIluIITced through teochrr rJrt'paration pmj{mms.

    Reflection has developed a variety of meanings as the bandwagon hilS traveled through the wo rl d of practice. Its il llure is caught up in th~ seducti ve nnrure of a notion that rings true for most people as something useful and informing; in the developmen t and understanding of, in this case, teaching nnd lea rning in teache r edu-ca tion practices.

    Reflective practice is a term that carries div~r~t' meaning (Grimmett & Erickson, 1988; Richard-son, 1992). For some, it simply means thinking ilbou t something, whereas for others, it is a we ll-defined and crafted practice that carries very specific meaning and associated action . Along this continuum there are many interesting inter-pretations, but one element of reflection tha t is common to many is the notion of a problt>11I (a puzzling, curious, or perplexing situatiun) . What that problem is, the way it is framed and (hopefully) reframed, is an impurtant aspect of understanding the nature of reflection and the value of reflective practice. It is alsu a crucial (but sometimes too easily overlooked) aspect of lea rning abou t teaching.

    One uutcome resulting from the a ppeal of the idea uf reflecti ve prilctic(' has been the adoption of reflection as a founda ti on for many teacher ~duca tion programs (see, e.g., Richert, 1990; Russell , 1997; Tom, 1985; Va lli , 1993; Zeichner, 1983). A consequence of Ihis la rge-sca le uptake of reflection as a shaping pri ncip le for teacher educa tion program struclures is that the cynic may well a rgue that participants are simply encou raged t.o reflect. This issue is perhaps a t the heH rt of the nHture and va lue of re flection, as clea rly the "WHy in" to re fl ection- the need to re fl ect-the contex t, the nature of the problem, and the anticipated va lue of such reflection a ll impacton what is reflected on and for wha t pur-poSt'. Simply being encouraged to reflect is likely to be as meaningful as a Iccture on cooper-ati ve group work.

    In this article, I sha ll exam ine the value of reflection as a meaningful way of approaching lea rning about teaching ~o thilt a better under-sland ing of teaching, and teaching about teach-ing, might develop. For reflection to lead to va luable learning ou tcomes for teacher educa-

    Journal of TeolCher Education. Vol. 53, No. 1, January / l'ebruary 2002 3J--U Q 2002 by tlw Amerk,m A'

  • tors

  • when attempting to help others see what it is that matters in one's own practice. An element of "making the tacit explicit" is the need and abil ity to recognize what draws one's attention to

  • ship with the subject. I sought to Identify the factor~ contributin:o; to their experience and experiment with a ltemativf' ways of teaching based on the feed -back I R!t:eived .... It W,lS in their [students' ] re-sponses. that I re,l!ized that my perceptions wert> not f'ntiri'ly accurate ... . I was surp rised to find thai the ~tudent$ gcncrillly felt positive towards the subject, bu t identified key elements that took away fmm their leanung experience .... nli~ milde [lie fed Cllll -fiden t that choosing to pursue ways of respondi ng 10 some of these "highlighted issue~" in my teach ing pra(ti(c (ould make theenvironmel1t more stimulat-ing for my s tudents. (Studen t's personal diary ac-count as shared With a teacher education dtls~, MOmcthing. I dis-St of the monologue surged forth , the class returned to its e.1rlief silence. I opened my notebook and wrote furi-oU!lly, " I disagrPe, I diSilgl"ff'."

    WI..' hilU just ~-'Cn talki ng

  • how do YOli react to this anecdote? What does thilj anecdote make you think about in te rms of your own teaching practice?

    A~ briefly noted at the outset of this arti cle, hdping student teachers come to see di ffe rentl y and thereby gain insights into how they might come to better understand and consequently va lue wisdom-in-practice is not as s imple as just highlighting the problem and telling them what it is they should know. I n teacher education pro-grams, student teachers are o ft en encouraged to tryout different teaching procedures and fee l what it is like to teach in a particular way. For example, student teachers o ften find it difficult to cond uct an interpretive discussion (Uaird & Northfie ld , 19Y2; Ha m es, ltJ75) because they struggle with their use of "wa il time."

    When the s tuden t-teachers wi th whom I work depa rt for their school teaching experi-ences (practicum ), [encourage them to practice their use of wail time and feel what it is like to give their studen ts a chance to think before they (as teachers) rush to fill thai ever-50-brief moment of silence. As a resu lt of taking the risk, one of my student teachers wrote the following anecdote.

    Waltnme

    My first class. Palms sweating, breillhing shaltow, lie too tight, pulse too fast. I gupss I was kind of nN-\'ous. I had fully prepared the whole lesson in il1t ri-ca te detail. and cvcn rehe.1fscd certa in key sections. I shufflen my hnoks, wa tching thpm enter the rnom noisily, with attitude to burn. TIwy sat down. Even hlillly, t swallowed .

    "Good morning JOB! M y name is Mr. Burns, I'm il teacher from Monash University. Today we arc ... " and into the lesson I launchf'd. enol as a cucumhpr and smooth as a strawberry smoothie. I wrote on the board in big letters. "What Makes A t

  • A common postpnlcticum leaching approach is for teacher educators to "extract" the learning from s tudent teachers' experiences so that it can be presented back to them in ways tha t might be helpful and offer insights that they had not pre-viously recogniLed. However, if the focus is genuinely on the student teacher as learner, then it is their abili ty to analyze and make mean-ing fro m experiencf' thnt mnttcrs most-as opposed tu wht'n the teacher educa tor filters, develops, and shane'S the know led ge with the s tudent teachers.

    I have only recentl y l~ome to recognize and better unders tClnd thi s subtle di s tincti on, and it is not necessarily easy to grasp; and simply stat-ing it here does not guarantee that it now also has meuning for the reader. The difficulty is in the fact that the knowledge developed ma y weB be the same, but the process in developing the knowledge is very differen t. Who is doing the learning really matters and is directly related tu whe re the effective reflecti ve practice occurs.

    So, consider again the traditional leaching round debriefing. Student teachers are often asked to share their practicum experiences in small g roups, a nd it is not unusua l that they find this to be (ltl interesting and engnging experi -ence. rt !ieems re(lsofl(lble to quest ion what comes from such tasks beyond some form of support for knowing that others face the same cha llenges and dilemmas, or that ucknO\vledg~ ment th(lt the transition from s tudent to teacher is difficult, ur that some common issues can be tackled, and so un. However, if these smCllJ groups arc asked to develop assertions about their practice as a resu lt of thi s sharing, the out-cumes can be qual itative ly d i fferf'nt from that of the support and acknowledgment outcomes no ted above. This difference is ex tended even more when s tuden t teachers document and sha re these assertions with their peers.

    Por example, the assertions in TClbie 1 were developed by s tudent teache rs in il session through w hich their practicum experiences became more meaningful because they devel-oppd ways of reconsidering their (and their peers') experie nces and uttempted to make sense of these not just as isolated events bu t as

    events from which common understandings might be reached.

    Although the knowledge developed through thi s process ma y no l necessa rily be new or di f-ferent for man y teacher educators, it wns new and mean ingful for the s tudent teachers who developed the table because of the ownership derived from tlw d irectlink to their experiences. In so doing, the ir e ffecti ve reflective practice is evidf'nt in tlw manner in which their possibili-ties for fu ture action nrc enhanced because of the nf'W perspectives they now conceive---their ta ken -fo r~gr

  • TABLE 1 Student TeAchers ' Assertions About PractlclI

    The medium of Instruction Influences the success (or failure) of the lesson. The Sludents have a management script; you have to deprogram betore you reprogram. Sometimes you teach in ways you donllik.e because il helps you cope. Teaching In a way Ihal works Isn't elways a way thai youd like to be leaching. Too much enthUSiasm (sludent and leacher) may tead to olher problems. Siudents and teachers can have dllferent ideas 01 what is lun and e)(citlng. Siudents have mora control ovor what wolils in the classroom than Ihe leacher Siudents have to m .. ka connections betwoen their school w